Minnesota has seen its fair share of inclement weather this past year from a historical drought in the summer to the state’s first tornado reported in December.

Southwest News Media asked Dan Hawblitzel, meteorologist-in-charge at the Twin Cities National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen, about this past year’s weather and how people can stay safe. Hawblitzel has been with the NWS since last June.

From tornadoes in December to the recent snow flurries and tornadoes, what is your take on the strange weather we’ve experienced in Minnesota?

Hawblitzel: Minnesota is no stranger to volatile weather in springtime, and we typically average a few inches of snow each April, as well as severe weather and tornadoes as we transition from cold weather to warm weather. However, the December tornadoes were quite unusual for this area, and were actually the first recorded tornadoes for the entire state of Minnesota in the month of December. Data suggests that unprecedented weather like this is in fact due to the Earth’s changing climate.

Is this a trend you see going forward?

Hawblitzel: Unfortunately signals point to extreme weather like what happened in December becoming more common as our climate continues to change.

What should people know about this weather?

Hawblitzel: People should remain alert and prepared for weather that they’re not typically used to seeing, such as widespread severe weather in the wintertime and extreme heat early in the summer. Extreme weather like this may not occur every year, but it’s becoming more common than it used to be.

What does this weather mean for Minnesota?

Hawblitzel: Last year we saw drought, large fires and wintertime severe weather, all of which have been shown to be increasing due to the Earth’s changing climate. Other types of extreme weather, such as floods, are also becoming more common. As crazy as it sounds, science has shown that warming near the Arctic can actually bring bouts of extreme winter cold into our area as well, such as what happened in April 2018 and January 2019.

With this weather seeming to become more common, is the local National Weather Service looking to increase staffing levels to cover it?

Hawblitzel: We always staff up as needed when hazardous weather hits. We may not be used to staffing up for a severe weather outbreak right before Christmas, but we will always be prepared for whatever nature throws our way.

How can people stay safe and informed about the weather?

Hawblitzel: Our office provides a steady stream of weather and safety information on social media as well as on our website and via NOAA Weather Radio. We also have great partners in our local media and emergency management community who help us get important information out to area residents.

Anything else people should know?

Hawblitzel: Extreme weather and Minnesota have always gone hand-in-hand. The best advice is to do as the Scouts say: Be prepared.